Soil types are described according to their texture, composition, drainage properties and acidity. Knowing what kind of soil you have in the garden will help you determine the kind of amendments you may need to add to improve the soil's quality and improve the growth of your plants.
Clay soil is composed mainly of clay, which is the smallest of soil particles. Clay has a smooth texture states the University of Illinois Extension, and is sticky to the touch when wet. Soils high in clay content are compacted and do not drain well.
Sand is the largest soil particle, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Sand feels rough to the touch and drains well when water is poured into it.
Silt is a particle size between sand and clay. It feels smooth and powdery to the touch, and is smooth when wet, not sticky.
Soil is composed, generally, of all three soil elements. The composition of the soil, how much of each element the soil contains, determines its suitability for planting. Mechanical soil analysis from a testing laboratory will tell you the exact composition of the soil. Soils are labeled sandy clay, clay loam, sandy loam and loam according to the soil's composition of elements. The more equal the mixture of elements, the more loamy the soil.
Soils contain nutrients necessary for plant growth. The acidity of a soil is how well balanced the nutrients are. The pH scale, according to Clemson University Extension, is a range between 0 and 14. On a pH scale, a soil is Alkaline when it has a reading of 7.1 or above and acidic when it is 6.9 and below. 7.0 is a neutral soil. Some plants grow better in a soil that is slightly alkaline, while others do better in an acidic or neutral soil.